Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Biggest Loser Review: Season 14, Episode 6, Trainer Styles

Spoilers ahead -- proceed at your own risk!

In her podcast, Jillian also talked about the difference between her and the other trainers.  She said that Bob and Dolvett think that they can talk the contestants into having better self esteem. She said that she doesn't think that works, and if it did, she would think it was dangerous. "These people have spent their whole lives being defined by other people's perceptions." She thinks that accomplishments, not words, have the power to change people's minds.

Nowhere is this stylistic difference more apparent than in the way that they handled the kids this week.  The theme was "lead by example," and Jillian encouraged Sunny to show the other kids that exercise can be fun by leading them through a challenging circuit workout. This gave Sunny the chance to show off her strength and fitness, but it also looked like the kids were enjoying the class much more than they expected that they would.

I wasn't sure what was really going on with Biingo (that spelling really bugs me) and his activity club. Bob thought the best way for him to lead by example would be to get more people in the club than the 10 kids he already had. They accomplished this by making some posters, and then goofing off throwing a football around. They looked like they were having fun, which should be the point. I'm not sure why it was important to have more people -- 10 kids might be the perfect number for what seemed to be a totally kid-led group, but I think Bob wanted to feel like he was reaching a lot of kids through his work with Biingo.

The most cringe-worthy was Lindsay. At Dolvett's direction, she gave a "No Bullying" speech to her classmates, and then some skinny pop star came in and sang a song. I had no idea who he was but I'm sure that he looks cool to 13-year-olds.  This seemed to accomplish two things: It let Dolvett look like a hero by showing he knows big-time celebrities. It also showed that Lindsay had started to accept that because Dolvett said she was great, she was getting more confident and getting past her negative experience. I really doubt they consulted a child psychologist on this one, because I think it's misguided to encourage Lindsay to think of herself as a victim.  I also think it's unsafe for her to make herself vulnerable to a large group of junior high kids, especially when they imply that the girl who picked on her was in the room. Do you really think that girl is going to like Lindsay for shaming her in front of a group (maybe not by name, but I'm sure that everyone knows what happened)? Do you think that saying "1-2-3-NO BULLYING!" is really the solution to that problem?

With the adults, too, the difference in trainer styles really shows. Jackson is still having trouble with vomiting during workouts and feeling low because of it. Dolvett gives him a pep talk and asks him to shout some affirmations. I don't think Jackson really sounded convinced, but he played along to make Dolvett happy.  What's interesting to me is that Jackson seemed to have his best week when Dolvett wasn't there.  He became a leader of his team. Now that Dolvett's back in the picture, Jackson has reverted to feeling weak. I wonder if that is what Jillian is talking about -- that Jackson is dependent on what Dolvett thinks of him, so he breaks down if he thinks he has disappointed him.

Something even more dysfunctional seems to be going on with Bob and Gina. Gina seems to have figured out that when she acts weak or picks on herself, she gets lots of attention and positive feedback from Bob. That seems to have created a pattern of her throwing a tantrum and getting reinforcement by Bob, over and over again. I don't think this strategy is endearing her to her teammates or to Bob, and worse yet, it can't be very good for her self-image either. What is she going to do when she goes home and Bob isn't there to tell her how great she is?

In contrast, Jillian says that now that Danni is so fit, she thinks of her as "a workout buddy" and takes her to a facility, a type of exercise that turns people into magical spider monkeys. Jillian and Danni don't become quite this agile, but they do have a lot of fun. What I saw here is that the trainer-trainee relationship here is turning into a relationship of equals. If anything is going to promote serious confidence, that would.

The challenge this week seems to on the American Ninja Warrior set. Participants have to scramble across a balance beam with big, padded obstacles swinging across it.  Interestingly, Gina, Jackson, and Danni face off. Danni falls off a few times but quickly figures out a technique, and then just has to work out the puzzle.  Gina manages to prove that she can just duck under the obstacles, but doesn't seem to put that to use -- as far as I could tell, she never got started on her puzzle.  Jackson finds a cool technique of shuffling sideways but he can't keep up with Danni. She wins the letters from home.

There was also a fun segment with Laila Ali in a boxing gym with Dolvett's team. The players all seem to really respond to her.  I think the producers might have her in mind as a trainer for when Jillian finally leaves for good. She would be great, a lot better than the cute blondes with no real understanding of overweight people that NBC has chosen as Jillian replacements in the past.

I like the way they handled the weigh-in this week -- only one player's weigh-in counts for the competition, but other than on Danni's team, no one knows who it will be until weigh-in day.  There are members of the Blue Team that have seemed to hold back their weight loss knowing they could count on their teammates to cover them. That isn't going to cut it this week. Ideally, every player would do their best every week. It seems to be only a matter of time before Danni has a bad week and gets sent home, but even if that happens, I think she will be fine. The Blue Team seems to have suffered from Bob's philosophy that only strength training matters -- he has a shirt on this week with a guy on an elliptical trainer on the front with the word "FAIL," and a guy lifting a big weight on the back with the word "WIN." Though I would agree that strength training helps weight loss long-term, The Biggest Loser has proven over and over again that the cardio "homework" the players do is also really important.

I agreed with the Blue Team's decision to send David home. His weigh-in numbers haven't been much worse than anyone else on that team, but he couldn't fully participate in the workouts because of his injuries, and he wasn't any help in challenges. I knew it would be him or Gina, since the other three players are so close. I was happy to see that David is doing well at home.  We also get a glimpse of Pam doing her  impression.  I think she looks good, but it's unfortunate that she feels she has to play the fool to get attention. I suspect she was already like that -- I saw it in the first week -- but the show doesn't seem to have helped.


  1. 5:06 PM

    immersed in MI-5 on Netflix, will be back to read and comment when I get back to my DVR.

  2. 5:36 PM

    I am so grateful for your detailed recaps as my dodgy source of watching it from the UK has suddenly dried up!

    It is REALLY interesting in light of Jillian's podcast! You really nailed the differences and i am criiiinnnggging at Dolvett's efforts here.

    It seems to happen over and over, this Ladies Getting Emotionally Dependent On Bob, doesn't? How many seasons have their been hysterics when they swapped trainers?

    It would be interesting to do a wee study comparing the maintenance success of the various trainers and if one group has had more success long term in the real world? The ones I follow on Twitter etc seem to be more Jillian alumni (e.g. Helen, Tara, Ali, Hannah, Olivia) and they seem really self-sufficient and strong!

    1. 9:20 PM

      So weird, Bob's reliance on this Transference theory -- maybe he reall, really needs love. Jillian did train Matt, who still seems to be a mess, so her success rate is not 100%.

    2. 7:03 AM

      Matt! I forgot about him. Maybe she was still honing her evil methods back then ;)

  • 8:15 PM

    It would be interesting to know what percentage of time Bob's people spend on cardio. And how that percentage stacks up against other trainers (every where). It might be that he is actually the same as everyone else. Maybe he has it set up so that they do most of their cardio on their own and do positional work, where it helps to have a trainer, with him. Don't know, it is impossible to tell from editing.

    Amazing that there are not fitness standards for law enforcement, when you think about it.

    The Jackson/Dolvett thing actually reminds me of the hierarchy of a pack of dogs, it is a submissive thing (in my opinion). I realize Dolvett means well. He is just not equipped to train people with emotional/psychological issues. The whole Lindsay thing is disturbing, I agree.

    Very fun that they are doing these sneak peak segments with eliminated players.

    Agree that the whole posturing thing with Pam is really unfortunate. Every time I see her, I hope that she finds a therapist.

    1. 9:22 PM

      Dolvett would probably be great for someone who had no serious issues. I think this group just needs really special treatment.

      Everyone who is on TBL probably would benefit from therapy, but Pam needs to feel secure enough not to keep begging for attention.

"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07